In a significant development, the U.S. Government has imposed environmental fines on a Greek ship operator and owner for not acting up to prevent pollution in the Mississippi River.
Joanna Maritime Limited and Empire Bulkers Limited will have to pay a $2 million fine for playing with their pollution prevention equipment in M/V Joanna vessel, which violated the Ports and Waterways Safety Act and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).
When an inspection was carried out in March 2022, it was revealed that the motor vessel’s pollution prevention equipment had been tampered with in a way that allowed fresh water into the sensors. This prevented it from detecting the bilge waste oil content from the overboard discharge.
They even falsified the ship’s oil record book to hide incorrect discharges, which the U.S. Coast Guard saw in their inspection.
There were several other safety hazards on the ship, including leaking fuel oil from the engine room as fuel oil heaters’ pressure relief valves were disabled. This feature is crucial to prevent explosions.
The defendants have already pleaded guilty to this, admitting that this could have caused pollution, loss of life and propulsion.
The Justice Department highlighted the graveness of the matter, saying that they didn’t just violate the law by hiding these problems from the Coast Guard but also put the life of the crew members at risk.
U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans noted that the U.S. government wouldn’t tolerate such dangerous, deceitful and illegal activities.
In accordance with that, Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, the U.S. District Court Judge, ordered both companies to pay $1 million each and be under probation for four years. During probation, a court-appointed monitor will supervise the ship and do independent audits.
References: The U.S. Department Of Justice, Energy Exch